Saturday, February 28, 2009

Polluters Pay - Cap and Trade

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama is banking on a landmark carbon gas cap-and-trade system to both fight climate change and pump 80 billion dollars into the Treasury purse to fund renewable energy programs. The innovative program -- similar to one already in place in Europe -- would rev up US efforts against global warming by reducing the output of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, while raising direly-needed revenue. The administration's proposed program was part of a 3.55-trillion-dollar budget unveiled by the president Thursday, which outlines a cap-and-trade system which would limit emissions of greenhouse gases by manufacturers, and permit companies to trade the right to pollute to other manufacturers.

The program forces heavy polluters to buy credits from companies that pollute less, creating financial incentives to fight global warming. The approach -- fiercely opposed by the George W. Bush administration as too costly for companies -- penalizes companies that emit the most greenhouse gases, while rewarding the country's "greenest" business enterprises.

Although the United States is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Bush walked away from the 1997 Kyoto treaty which aimed to combat climate change.

Obama now is set to do a brisk about-face on US climate change and energy policy.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Startups in a downturn

 December 1987 was no time to be raising money for a startup. Computer engineer Len Bosack was trying to attract funding for a young enterprise called Cisco Systems (CSCO). But the stock market had just crashed and the Dow Jones industrial average had plummeted 40% since October. Gun-shy venture capitalists either didn't get the newfangled technology or deemed it too risky.

Making matters worse, Bosack was running low on the savings he had used to bootstrap the business, and competition was gaining steam. It wasn't until this 75th meeting that he found a receptive audience. The willing financier was Donald Valentine of Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. On Dec. 14, two months after Black Monday, Sequoia invested $2.5 million in Cisco. "Valentine's reasoning was pretty simple," recalls Bosack, now CEO of telecom gear-maker XKL. "It doesn't matter what they are. They are selling stuff in a bad market. With a little bit of capital and more experienced help they should be able to do better."

Better is just what Cisco did. By the time of its initial share sale three years later, in February 1990—during a recession—the maker of telecom networking equipment was worth $224 million. Within a decade, Cisco Systems had become one of the world's most valuable companies.



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

$1/watt Panels!!

Company Cuts Manufacturing Cost to 98 Cents Per Watt in Fourth Quarter

TEMPE, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 24, 2009-- First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) today announced it reduced its manufacturing cost for solar modules in the fourth quarter to 98 cents per watt, breaking the $1 per watt price barrier.

“This achievement marks a milestone in the solar industry’s evolution toward providing truly sustainable energy solutions,” saidMike AhearnFirst Solar chief executive officer. “First Solar is proud to be leading the way toward clean, affordable solar electricity as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.”

First Solar began full commercial operation of its initial manufacturing line in late 2004. From 2004 through today, manufacturing capacity has grown 2,500 percent to more than 500 megawatts in 2008. First Solar’s annual production capacity will double in 2009 to more than 1 gigawatt, the equivalent of an average-sized nuclear power plant. These escalating volumes have been accompanied by a rapid reduction in manufacturing costs. From 2004 through today, First Solar’s manufacturing costs have declined two-thirds from over $3 per watt to less than $1 per watt. First Solar is confident that further significant cost reductions are possible based on the yet untapped potential of its technology and manufacturing process.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cost/Watt Installed - Down 27% in last 10 years

The cost of installing solar panels on homes and businesses plunged 27.6 percent from 1998 through 2007, according to a new study that questions some of the conventional wisdom about solar power's price.


Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined the costs of 37,000 photovoltaic systems across the country and found the average price fell from $10.50 per watt in 1998 to $7.60 per watt in 2007. Those averages include residential systems as well as larger arrays installed on businesses and do not take into account financial incentives from the federal or state governments.

Smaller, home-size systems averaged $8.30 per watt in 2007, which was more than the average at commercial installations. At that price, a typical 3-kilowatt residential solar system would cost $24,900.

The study's findings, released Thursday, contain one surprise.

For several years, solar prices were widely believed to be rising, the result of a worldwide shortage of the silicon used in most photovoltaic panels. Indeed, Lawrence Berkeley researchers did find a slight increase in prices from 2005 to 2007. But the price hike was small, only about 20 cents per watt, said Galen Barbose, one of the report's authors. And it has probably ended, as the silicon shortage eased.

"In point of fact, the cost of these systems remained relatively flat," said Barbose, a staff research associate at the lab. "So the industry was able to absorb some of those (silicon) price increases."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oregon Feed in Tariffs

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski introduced a trio of bills to the 2009 state legislature that, if passed, would give solar energy in the state a significant boost.

The first two, House Bills 2121 and 2181, would make installation of solar energy facilities more affordable to homeowners and developers. Oregon already has some of the strongest tax credit and loan programs in the nation to encourage solar energy, but the average Oregon building owner still can expect to wait 25 years or more to recover the initial capital costs of a solar energy system through savings on electricity bills.

HB 2121 would establish a feed-in tariff pilot program for up to 17 megawatts (MW) of new solar energy. A feed-in tariff requires utilities to purchase solar energy according to a pre-established rate or set of rates. If the price for the solar power exceeds the price at which the building owner purchases electricity back from the utility, solar panels become an income source for the homeowner. The greater the difference between the "buy" and "sell" rates, the greater the incentive for building owners to install solar panels.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Solar Mobile Phones

I have a few friends (who shall remain nameless) who are often unreachable because they don't charge their phones when they should. These same friends should look into the new Samsung Blue Earth, which is to be unveiled in a couple days at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The phone is green, despite its blue color, and it's not just the integrated solar panels that make it so. The Blue Earth is made of recycled plastic, features a pedometer, and even software that reaffirms just how much you're helping the planet by using it. If Al Gore had one of these mobile devices in hand, it would likely explode.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

$50B in stimulus plan

The Senate on Wednesday reached an agreement on a massive government stimulus bill that includes tens of billions of dollars for energy through direct government investments and tax incentives.

The Senate pared down the package to $790 billion from the House's $820 billion version, but the majority of energy-related infrastructure spending and incentives remain in the compromise bill. Final votes on the bill, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in both houses could happen on Friday.

Overall, there is $50 billion for energy programs, much of it focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and efficiency, according to a conference report released by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office (click for PDF) and an Associated Press analysis. Provisions include:

  • $5 billion to weatherize homes of up to 1 million low-income people.

  • $11 billion toward smart-grid technologies to run the power grid more efficiently.

  • $13.9 billion in loans to subsidize renewable-energy projects and transmission.

  • $6.3 billion in state energy-efficient and clean-energy grants.

  • $4.5 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

FL Feed in Tariffs

Gainesville Regional Utilities Announces Approval of First U.S. Solar Feed-In-Tariff

February 10, 2009
Source: Clean Edge News

Gainesville Regional Utilities recently announced that its board of directors, the Gainesville City Commission, gave unanimous approval to adopt a solar photovoltaic feed-in-tariff— the first of its kind in the nation. Based on highly successful models in Europe, it offers GRU electric customers a chance to invest in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and sell electricity directly to GRU. 

Ed Regan, GRU assistant general manager for strategic planning, visited Germany to study European PV models prior to proposing the Gainesville program. Regan said, “The feed-in-tariff is more attractive to solar investors than traditional solar rebate programs because it guarantees that the utility will buy all of the electricity produced by the PV system at a fixed rate for 20 years. It offers investors a reliable and predictable source of income.” 

Pending expected Florida Public Service commission approval, GRU customers can sign up for the feed-in-tariff as of March 1. According to the company, participants signing up during the first two years of the program will be guaranteed a fixed rate of $0.32 per kilowatt hour for 20 years. GRU estimates that investors will see a 5-percent return on investment for large-scale projects. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

$4.8 BILLION invested in clean tech in 2008

Venture capital investments in clean-tech reached record levels in 2008 with $4.7 billion raised in 186 financing rounds -- a 68 percent increase in annual capital invested and a 5 percent increase in annual financing activity, according to a study released Tuesday.

The analysis by Ernst & Young LLP, based on data from Dow Jones Venture Source, showed that clean-tech companies received $954 million from venture capitalists in the fourth quarter, significantly surpassing the $681 million invested in the same period in 2007 but lagging behind the record $1.7 billion invested in the third quarter of 2008.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recent Install - Residence Lincoln CA

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Feed in Tariffs are coming!

Washington State legislators have upped the ante on the West Coast's march toward renewable energy feed laws with the introduction of HB 1086. The bill by Representatives John McCoy (D-38th), Representative Maralyn Chase (D-32nd), Representative Zachary Hudgins (D-11th), and Representative Jeff Morris (D-40th) was introduced mid January amidst a flurry of bills calling for feed-in tariffs in the Washington State Legislature.